Write what should not be forgotten - Isabel Allande

Month: July 2016

Happy Birthday


KK70 5

Today would have been my mom’s 83rd birthday. Among her greatest qualities were her sense of humor and her sense of adventure.  She fit a lot of adventure into her life especially in the last half of her life. She had a lot of friends and a busy lady, we would often joke that she was busier than her kids!  She started a second career, and loved to travel. She traveled to visit my siblings, and to many places in the US and Europe.  She loved spending time with her many grandchildren and had so much energy.

I wanted to share one of my favorite birthday memories.  When she turned 70, we had a family party and all the siblings and grandchildren were there.  A few days later she took a hot air balloon ride as her present from us.  She took my niece and nephew along with her.  It was one of coolest things she ever did.  They had a great time and will never forget the experience! They flew over the gorge at Letchworth Park, the views are breath taking.



There they are ready for takeoff!  The two cuties on the right are now 15 and 27, my niece is almost 30.

When she turned 75, my bother and sister-in-law had a party for her.  It was a very hot day and we took a lot of pictures.  There were several grandchildren missing  but the ones who were there gave her a run for her money. I just love the picture where it looks like she is trying to keep them all together and they are just hamming it up.

Her 80th birthday was the last we spent together.  We had a big party and all the siblings were able to make it.  It was such a good day and I am so glad we did it, she died the following March.  At the party I mentioned that she and I hadn’t taken a picture together in ages.  The picture below of the two of us makes me smile. The pictures below are a mix between the two birthdays.  One of my all time favorites pictures is the one of her with my nephew, Brian.  He had a t-shirt made of the two of them together drinking a Guinness at the local Irish Pub.  She developed a taste for it on a trip to Ireland!!  It makes me laugh every time I see the picture.

Happy Birthday KK, miss you today and everyday

KK bday collage




Uncle Lee's Christmas Letter

Mike and Amy McGee were awesome enough to answer my email (from a stranger at the time) and send me a copy of a Christmas letter penned by Leo “Lee” McGee in 1980.  This letter was a goldmine for me and filled in so many blanks!  I was struck by the fact that he mentioned several times that other people had more information, or would have been better storytellers.  I wish he knew just how much his letter means to me…

Many of you may have already read the letter, but I typed a copy to save and thought this would be the place to share it.  In the letter he talks about the Murphy family (his mother’s family) and mentions that they lived in a place called Pearl Creek in a home that was once a ticket station for the Railroad.  A co-worker of mine lives in Pearl Creek – it is a very tiny place.  She remembers it being very small and fairly run down by the time she moved there. There was a a man living there but sadly the little house that was owned by the Murphy’s burned down a few years ago.  The man continued to live on the land in a camper for a time but has since moved on.  Uncle Lee’s stories about working at the family store were wonderful – I will be doing some more research about it soon.

I hope you enjoy Uncle Lee’s letter as much as I did!!

Christmas 1980

In trying to supplement my sister’s recollections of her early years, I would like to add some of my memories which have remained in the back of my mind the past fifty odd years.

First of all I find Mary Ellen’s ability to communicate far superior to mine and I marvel at her storytelling talents. I will not challenge her report in any manner for even the slightest exaggeration (?) to comment on how fortunate those English III and IV high school students in Silver Co. were to have such an outstanding teacher. (Shades of Aunt Alice Murphy’s business teaching and administrative expertise in Binghampton, NY)

Later on I will try to put this narrative into a chronological sequence but before getting too involved in my personal experiences, let me try to trace my elders when I was a “wee lad”.

I was born at 225 West Buffalo St Warsaw, NY. the numbers, 225, that I made in sixth grade manual training class still adorns the front porch. However, I must admit that my artistic handicraft talents began and and ended with that one project. My father started in the grocery business because the hours were too long, the pay too little and the dangers too great in the salt mines that Warsaw was famous for when he was young. Eventually one small store prospered into a large general store that now would be called a department store. His partner, Will Cheney, died soon after the partnership was formed but the name always stayed Cheney and McGee until my father sold in 1929.  At that time he signed a long term lease with a new firm (W.T. Grant) which really was a stroke of genius because the Great Depression was just getting started. The 20 year lease plus a couple of extensions permitted our family to survive the depression years in much better shape that many of our friends.

I was told that I was breaking into the business nicely by working Monday nights when they remained open until 10:00pm. I usually ended up asleep on the piles of overall until someone wanted to buy or my father woke me up to take me home.  There was a stalk of bananas in the middle of the store and if anyone was looking for Bob the first thing to check for directions was the way the banana stalk was swinging. Jack’s long lets were good for deliveries and he also had a persuasive way with the horses. I can’t remember my sister’s or my mother ever being in the store but most of the clerks were relatives.

One of which was Angie McGee, a spinster, who lived with her brother George who was blind.  What a pity Angie isn’t around to write this narrative. She and George were the family historians and Angie could compose a poem at the drop of a hat. I marvelled at the way she would inquire about our Christmas presents and then write a related poem that was almost as good as the dinner and gifts combined. Her brother was a real comedian and it was always a pleasure to visit with him. He was extremely well informed because he would listen to that new gadget, Radio, all day and most of the night. I was always amazed how George always knew when I didn’t complete the trimming job after mowing a large lawn.  Before paying me, sometimes up to a quarter; he would send me out in back to correct some flaws.  At first I corrected them, bet later on being older and smarter I would just leave the house for a few minutes. However he never let  me get away with anything unless he heard the lawnmower moving.

Sunday was visit Grandma Murphy’s day and off we’d go down the road about 10 miles to Pearl Creek. Grandpa Murphy was a railroad man and they remodelled the old ticket station into their home.  The quaint old building (now call Aunt Jenny’s house) still stand today and my children enjoyed playing “Andy, Andy Over” as much as I did years before.  She had no modern conveniences or you might call them essentials such as central heat, telephone, water service, electric, or inside plumbing. (In fact as I grew older I had an important job after Halloween in replacing the “Out House” back onto it’s foundation) Her one luxury was a battery radio. Although Grandma came here as a young girl, she retained her Irish beliefs. She lived in both good mind and spirit until 93.  In fact in the true Irish tradition, she she was to be anointed at our house  by a new priest who had just arrived from Ireland, she asked him what town he came from. When he answered (Northern) she excused him from the room. Afterwards she relented and let him back in saying there might be someone good from that town but she didn’t know any when she was last there.

Also at Grandma’s house lived Aunt Jennie (1876-1973) all the time and Aunt Alice (1881-1976) when she wasn’t teaching school. They also had two brothers, Thomas (1875-?) who died about the time I was born.  In fact Thomas was the link that led to my mother and father getting married. Uncle Thomas worked in the store and bragged about his nice sister. He meant Aunt Jennie but she thought John and Mary would make a better couple and so it was.  Another brother James (1872-1937) lived in Pearl Creek and married Mary Donaghue (1882-1959) and they had four sons. Uncle Jim was a very active Democrat and just happened to have his sons available for appointments. John’s career was a NY State Trooper, James was a prison guard, Tom moved to Florida and Peter was my age. Tom is the lone survivor and has remained a good friend. Tom, Vivian his wife, and Guyla(?) daughter were very helpful to my family when we moved to Florida. They presently are good friends of Art’s and Mary Ellen and we usually see them when we visit in Florida. Grandma’s maiden name was Ryan and we used to visit and correspond with the Ryan’s from Olean, NY as well as those that remained in Ireland. I am afraid that we have now lost touch with each other.

Now to get back into some chronological order that I promised several pages ago. As a real youngster (six) I can remember faintly the joys and sorrows of having two brothers leaving the same day to go to college. Jack went west to Notre Dame, travelling from the Erie RR station on the West Hill and Bob went East to Rutgers, New Jersey on the Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh RR from the East Hill. They had always been in the same class because Jack has lost two years of schooling as a youngster. Before completely recovering from Scarlet Fever, he was caught in the Great Flu epidemic.  The other big event I remember was my parents 25th Wedding Anniversary that was held in the Wyoming Sun.  That was as close to a huge family reunion as was possible in those days.  The next event which I remember well was going to Jack and Bob’s graduation. The most significant part of the trip was the (?) everyone had for a family to travel so far in such a short time with that family new gadget of a 1929 Touring Buick with so few mechanical problems. The trip went to South Bend, Indiana to New Brunswick, New Jersey with a stop in between to visit the Loggies (Sp?) and check out Seton Hall College for Mary Ellen in between.  Three of the things I distinctly remember are: 1. My nickname of “Sharp Eyes” because my main job was to look out for trains at all the grade level crossings. I remember counting the white crosses that publicized the fatalities at each crossing. 2. My losing with my mother how my  one white shirt became so black when we stayed with the Loggies. I tried to blame it on the steel mills but she didn’t agree. 3. The choice of sleeping quarters which consisted of either a large hotel or more often a large house in a small town that offered tourist accommodations. You usually shared all the privileges with the family that lived in the house. Then came a fairly rough time in my young life. Even youngsters felt the Depression. The low point came when I lost my father. Jack lost his job in California because he came home for the funeral. Bob’s company went out of business (Marr and Colton Organs). Neither Jack or Bob could find any work and I think they remained at home for two years at least. Eventually they both began long employments in their respective fields – Jack with Government and Bob with Data Processing. Mary Ellen went on to Seton Hill and then a teacher in Silver Creek, NY. My high school career was entirely sports and and naturally a comparison to my older brother’s skills. Warsaw usually enjoyed winning seasons with McGee’s.

From Warsaw High onto Niagara University was a quick and happy four years.  The next four years were neither quick or happy but I did get to travel around the United States and ended as an Infantryman in the Pacific arena. Upon returning from service, I realized it was time to catch up with my two brother and sister who were all happily married. So enter one Jeanne Elizabeth Dayton who was a Registered Nurse in the Warsaw Hospital. We were married in Auburn, NY on November 23, 1946.

Because we were geographically close (two blocks) when our family was growing up we have probably retained closer relations with Jack’s family. Bob and Ellen were not that far away in New Jersey and we enjoyed many good times and we still correspond regularly with Bobby and Bill. Incidentally I believe they have followed the usual McGee tradition of being excellent “picker-outers” in Rose and Carol.  Mary Ellen and Art moved to Puerto Rico and now Florida but we always visited as often as possible.  The Hau’s are blessed with nice, healthy happy and welcomed additions to their family but they sure know how to scatter in different directions. In spite of the miles that separate them, I truly believe they are as close today as they were at 43 ? Rd Grand Island, NY.

Now to offer a punch line to you “young-uns” who too soon with be “the older generation”. Keep in touch with your relatives because you’ll be happily surprised how great they are.  Two recent incidents that prove my point are: 1. Jeanne and I visited Alice and Mike McCarthy in California. We certainly enjoyed their genuine hospitality and you can’t imagine the awe and respect shown by their five children to some real live relatives way back East. 2. Jeanne’s niece and husband hosting a “Fourth of July McGee Party” this year that will have to be repeated.

Now let’s start on the McGee ancestors by introducing my Great Grandparents. Thom Gill married Catherine Glancy (Clancy?) and their daughter Catherine, became my father’s mother. William McGee Margaret McConnell and became parents of my father’s father. I am not certain how my grandparents got here from Ireland (single or married) nor do I know when but I do know my grandfather became a US Citizen in 1850. My father married Mary McGinn (1866-1893) but she and their son, James, both died in childbirth.  My father waited about 10yrs before he married my mother.  **

As you well may surmise because both my father and I were the youngest of several children, it is apparent I needed some assistance to put this together. I first turned to Veronica Derrick Calmes, my first cousin who still lives in Warsaw. In addition to benefitting from Veronica’s astute memory I gained a terrific source of information from the grand-daughter, Brenda Reilly Leyden, who lives in Albany, NY. Brenda has gleaned information from Birth Records, Death Certificates, Census information and several other tidbits here and there confirmed by her grand-mother that has become the mainstay for my telling my version of the generation of the McGee’s.

I think I will leave enough traces that should my children of grand-children were to modernize or update they can do so. However mainly I wanted  to go back into the earlier McGee history.  Both Veronica and Brenda spent many hours in researching this document and deserve all the credit for assisting me in accomplishing something I never could have done alone.

My memory is dim on my Aunts and Uncles and somewhat hazy on the first cousins and very poorly informed on the children of my cousins. My paternal grandparents had six children as did my father as I will attempt to keep  (unreadable). These dates can easily be verified or contradicted by some of the living member.

Uncle Bernard, dates unknown, married and had two daughters. Nellie remained single while Mattie married William Donahue who had a daughter, Helen, who married Bill? And they had a son who met an early death when I was in college.

Uncle William (1857-1926) married Martha Flynn (1865-1936) and they had two sons and one daughter. The daughter, Nora (1903-1932) married Orrin Pierce (1885-1936) and they had a son, John. One son, William (1897-1927), remained single while the other, John Norman (1894-1952), married Madeline McVay (1894-1967) and they had a son, James, who married Kay Marshall and they are presently living in Batavia, NY with their children Mary Ellen, Eileen, John and Michael.

Aunt Catherine (1858-1914) married Christopher O’Melia (1858-1914) and they had three daughters. Loretta married Lee Fleming and they had no children.  Eileen married Joseph Engle and they had two daughters. One, Mary Agnes(1914), had two children and still lives in the Rochester area. The other Barbara Anne (1923?) has six children and lives around ?. The third daughter, Marie (1889-1979) married James Loggie (1885-1964) who had a daughter and son. Catherine (1919) married William Holtz and had eight children and still resides in Arizona. James (192?) and Beverly had six children and live around the the Los Angeles area.

Aunt Mary (1860-1919) remained single but probably was the matriarch of the McGee’s from the stories I’ve been told.  Aunt Mary and my father kept the old homestead going and she really was the second mother to all the nieces and nephews.

Aunt Ellen (1861-1897) married William Derrick (1860-1891) and they had a daughter, Veronica (1891-1982) who married Lawrence Calmes (1891-1968). The Calmes’s daughter Eileen (1913-1975) married Brendan Reilly (1911-1973) and they had three children – Kevin, Brenda and Derek. Both Kevin (Melissa and Daniel) and Brenda (Lisa and Brian) presently have two children while Derek has remained single.

I’ll tell what little I know about my Grandfather’s three brothers and admit to knowing nothing about his two sisters (Nancy and Ellen). Of Bernard (1831-1864), his grave marker lists Donegal as his birthplace, (probably also my Grandfather’s). William (1837-1906) married Sally Malone (1844-1905) and they had three children. Mary C. (1869-1912) who married Edward Dillon (1860-1938), then Mattie (1873-?) who married James Simon and William (1877-1933) who married Maude Crawford (1882-1966). The Dillon’s and Simon’s scattered and I don’t know the whereabouts of the current generation. The William McGee family remained fairly close by Warsaw. Bill and Charles are deceased; Marjorie, Mary and Betty are around Warsaw; Dick is in Jamesville; Maurice (Mike) is in Ellicottville and the youngest Sally settled in the Mid-West. Michael (1832-1894) married Mary L (1840-1911) and had two boys and a girl. Charles (1873-1904) and George 1810-1939) were the boys and Mary Angela (Angie 1866-1942) was the girl. I have previously mentioned Angie and George who could have told more and better stories about all the McGee’s than have been mentioned before.

Now how do I conclude this narrative? I believe to oversimplify my position is to advise you to be “Proud of Your Family Heritage”. You have no idea how our anxieties are relieved because Mary Ellen, Art and Julianne are only a 100 miles down the road from Woody. You also can’t realize what a pleasure if was to take Chuck and Mike for a short vacation to Letchworth Park reminisce. Mike and Jo were listening intently while I told them about the “good old days” and Chuck and Pat watched intently while I tried to position their son to match a picture of myself at the Rail Road Station taken a few ? years earlier.

May all of you have a Happy Holiday and Healthy Christmas season and a Joyful 1981.


Dad, Brother, Uncle or Cousin



**Mary McGinn gave birth to James McGee on July 14, 1893. She died on July 2, 1893 and baby James died on August 13, 1893.  

McGee, Leo Gerald. “Christmas 1980.” Letter to McGee Family. 25 Dec. 1980. MS. Lake Pinellas, Florida.

Madeline McGee




Madeline “Mamie” McGee was my paternal Grandmother.  As with the rest of my grandparents, she passed away before I was born. For whatever reason I have always felt very connected to her.  The more I research, the more that is confirmed.  She loved lilacs, has a little girl I can remember going with my Dad to her grave site and leaving them for her.  To this day the smell of lilacs takes me back to that and is one of my favorite scents.  When I turned 13 a dear friend of my mother gave me a set of china that had once belonged to her.  The dishes are the most beautiful shade of light green, the teacups are the most delicate things small and almost impossibly thin. The outside that same beautiful shade of green and inside looks almost translucent.

Madeline Loretta McVay was born in the tiny Village of Lakewood, NY (Chautauqua County) on July 8, 1894 (122 yrs ago today!). Her parents were John and Margaret Ryan McVay.  John McVay had been named Postmaster of Lakewood in April of 1890. Her brother William Wayne McVay was born in 1898, Uncle Wayne was the only member of my Dad’s family that I ever knew.  Mamie and Wayne remained close throughout their lives.  There was another brother, Charles who died at the age of 3 from typhoid.  The McVay family, John and his brothers owned several businesses in Jamestown and the family lived in Lakewood, Busti, and Jamestown.   1899 was a particularly bad year for the family, Mamie’s brother Charles, her Grandmother, and her aunt all died. The Grandmother is still a bit of a mystery and while her gravestone says 1899 as her death year I have some conflicting information.  Maybe the most crushing loss however was the death of Mamie’s father, John McVay. He died of Typhoid fever in September of 1899 at the age of 36.  Her father and little brother are buried in Jamestown.

I had never known that I family in Jamestown, NY until I started researching.  It is especially interesting because my husband’s family is from the Jamestown/Dunkirk area. In all the years we have been visiting I never knew that I had roots there as well.  So I was blown away to learn that my Great-Grandfather and several members of his family are buried in a cemetery that we pass on every visit. The cemetery is close to our relatives home and their plots can be seen as we go by!  They are buried not to far from my husband’s Grandfather. I had always enjoyed visiting the city but even more so now!

By 1900 Margaret, Mamie and Wayne moved to Warsaw, NY be closer to her Margaret’s family, The Ryan’s.  Madeline and Wayne grew up and became a part of the Warsaw community.  Mamie graduated from Warsaw High School in 1914 and was the class Treasurer. Mamie was a great history keeper. There is a journal from her high school graduating year in which she lists all of her classmates.  Their class motto (Res non verba, things are not words) and poem are carefully written out by hand. She took 4 yrs of Latin and 3 of German.  In her journal she says that Latin was her favorite study, mathematics and English her least favorite. She definitely passed her dislike of math onto to her granddaughter! She wrote an essay titled “The Spirit of Patriotism” and read it at her Graduation. Her journal is sort of a handwritten yearbook.

After graduation Mamie went to work for the County Clerk where she remained for several years.  She and my grandfather knew each other in high school, he graduated the year before her.  Her journal lists gifts she received from his family for graduation.  My grandfather went to France during the First World War.  I am not sure what took them so long but Norm and Mamie finally were married on October 17, 1923.  I especially love this because my husband and I were married on October 7.  Mamie was 29 when she was married – somewhat unusual for the time.  They made their home with Mamie’s mother for a time in Warsaw.  There are references in a couple of letters that I found that suggest that they had some trouble starting a family.  My Dad was born in 1930 when Mamie was 36.  A second son, William Wayne was born and died in 1934, he died at birth. She would have been 40 at the time.

When my dad was young the family moved to nearby Batavia, NY.  My grandfather took a job at a bank there.  As their mother’s became older at some point they both lived with Mamie, Norm and my Dad.  My Grandmother was very social and she and my Grandpa had many friends in the community.  They were also very involved in their church.  My Grandfather died unexpectedly in 1952 at the age of 57 in their home. They had entertained friends to play cards earlier that night.

After his death she spent a lot of time with friends.  From what I have always heard , she absolutely loved to play Bridge. They had a bridge club and played often.  Even after her death they continued to get together.  I can remember the bridge club coming over to our house to play.  My parents would get out the card tables and set them with tablecloths and snacks.  I remember thinking it was all very fancy.   Mamie loved to read (she also passed this one down to me) and was absolutely terrified of bats and thunderstorms.  She lived in an apartment that often was plagued with bats, she would call my Dad to come over and take care of them.  My sister said she would hide on the attic stairs, reading waiting for my Dad.  One night there was a terrible thunderstorm and she went to wait it out in the closet, she went in with her book.  However she soon discovered she was not alone…there was a bat in the closet!  She called my Dad, covered her head and read her book until the cavalry arrived!  

She spent quite a bit of time with my siblings. My sister remembers spending time with her, she especially remembers Mamie making Peanut butter and butter sandwiches cut into 4’s.  It was funny because when she told me that it brought back memories of my Dad making me the same thing!  Peanut butter and butter sandwiches were one of my Dad’s favorite things.  Mamie was a determined, strong person. She owned a car and got around all by herself. Her driving skills were somewhat questionable…one day while taking a corner too fast her passenger door flew open and my oldest brother landed on the curb!  That was well before the days of seat belts!! My brothers were big baseball fans in the mid 1960’s she decided that they should see a proper game.  My brave Grandmother took the boys on the train to New York City and took them to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees play. She took them by herself – and my brothers could be a bit of a handful…  I think it is safe to say that if she loved her son, she absolutely doted on his family.   She sounds like a pretty cool Grandma!

Madeline McGee died on August 17, 1967, she called my father and said she didn’t feel well and she died 2 hrs later at the hospital she was 73 yrs old. Her funeral was at St. Mary’s Church in Batavia and she was buried next to her husband and infant son at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Warsaw.  I will always wish that I had the opportunity to know her but even so I feel a connection with her.  She was a person who lived life no matter what it threw her way.  She didn’t live an entirely conventional life, but she certainly lived a full one.  Sounds to me like something we can all respect and aspire to do.

Maime Collage




(n.d.). Retrieved July 06, 2016, from

© 2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑